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Booktalking "A Caldecott Celebration" by Leonard Marcus


On the 70th anniversary of the inception of the Caldecott Medal, Leonard Marcus wrote this wonderful edition. Included are seven Caldecott Medal winners, one from each decade that the prize has been given. The book is chock full of sketches of artwork that appeared in the picture books and insightful commentary about the career development of the artists and illustrators of children's books.

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, Caldecott Medal in 1942. McCloskey had heard of an incident when traffic was stopped in order for ducks to cross the street. He based this picture book on that incident, and he even lived with ducklings to learn more about them! There is a statue in Boston that has the mother duck and ducklings from this story. McCloskey grew up during the Great Depression, and he does not think that he would have become an artist if it were not for a scholarship that he received in high school to study art in Boston.

Cinderella, or, the Little Glass Slipper, translated and illustrated by Marcia Brown, Caldecott Medal in 1955. As a girl, Brown loved to draw and sing. When she decided to write children's books, she thought about the fairy tales that she had loved as a child. She worked in the Central Children's Room of the New York Public Library. She was familiar with the different versions of fairy tales, and she studied at the New York State College for Teachers in Albany.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Caldecott Medal in 1964. I remember how devastated people in the children's literary community were when this brilliant author died in 2012. When he discovered that he won the Caldecott Medal, he was ecstatic. An earlier version of the book, written in 1955, was called Where the Wild Horses Are. He decided that he could not draw horses well, and the creatures morphed into wild things. He rewrote the book often because he did not think that it was good, and he even told himself to ABANDON its manuscript. The M in Max for the protagonist's name is linked to Maurice and his favorite childhood cartoon, Mickey Mouse. There is a 46-foot long mural in the children's room of the Richland County Public Library in Columbia, SC.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig, Caldecott Medal in 1970. Steig likes donkeys because they work hard. He was born in Brooklyn and grew up in the Bronx. He worked in advertising, but he did not enjoy it. Steig started cartooning as a young man to support his family during the Great Depression. He liked children's books, so he started working in that field.

Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg, Caldecott Medal in 1982. This was made into a movie starring Robin Williams. A child reader called his books weird, but then referred to the author as great. Van Allsburg used photographs as a basis for his illustrations. However, he could not find any photos of rhinos charging at close range, so he started using plastic animals. Van Allsburg also created wood sculptures, and he reveled in playing with the composition of his artwork.

Tuesday by David Wiesner, Caldecott Medal in 1992. He gave the book its title because it sounds like Ooze Day, which he figured is fitting for a story about frogs. The idea for the work came from Wiesner's second cover illustration for Cricket Magazine. His editor made suggestions in order to make the book funnier. He went on the Today Show to speak about his book. People jokingly referred to him as Mr. Caldecott, and asked him what he would do to top that accomplishment.

The Man Who Walked Between theTowers by Mordicai Gerstein. This book was based on an actual walk in 1974 between the Twin Towers by Phillipe Petit on a high wire. Gerstein wrote an unpublished picture book about a boy who bicycles to the moon on a wire. Since Petit was a showman, the author strove to lend a dramatic air to his depiction of the feat.

A Caldecott Celebration: Seven Artists and Their Paths to the Caldecott Medal by Leonard Marcus, 2008

I have heard Marcus speak on several occasions, and I have read many of his books. It is hard for me to think of any author who has single handedly taught me more about children's literature.


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